I’m keeping a long-standing engagement for the Department of Classics at Durham University on 11 December. I have been asked to give my views and my approach on translation which is really ironic since I don’t have a second language. Actually, I’ve come to realise in recent years, particularly since becoming involved with the recontextualisation of ancient texts, that although I have to work from already exisiting translations, my versions are, nevertheless, translations – or at least interpretations. In a sense all translation is interpretation it cannot be anything else.
What has been doubly interesting in preparing for this talk/presentation to the classics undergraduates, is that I have had to re-engage with my own earlier poems from ‘Oyster Baby’, particularly those for which Ovid’s Metamorphoses was the inspiration.
Below I have added a poem from ‘Oyster Baby’, “Eurydice The Second” about which Professor Stephen Harrison in his paper ‘Bimillenary Ovid: Some Recent Versions of the Metamorphoses’ (see http://users.ox.ac.uk/~sjh/documents/OVmilfin.doc) says, “The combination of wry humour and pathos is very effective: quite apart from the transposition of the Underworld to the Underground, Eurydice is ’swept off her feet’ by the crowd and not by her husband, who though he is a ‘charmer’ (a witty allusion to his famous beast-charming activities) will make her die slowly in a bad marriage rather than in the swift demise of the myth.” Carol Ann Duffy also did a fascinating version of this myth in her collection, ‘The World’s Wife’ and Seamus Heaney’s version appears in the ‘After Ovid’ anthology. Each new interpretation of a text hopefully adds an extra dimension to the original, offering new ways of understanding.
In the meantime here is a photograph of the front cover of ‘Oyster Baby’ which was published by Biscuit Publishing in 2002 in case anyone wants to order a copy! www.biscuitpublishing.com
Eurydice the Second
He lost her on the Piccadilly Line,
an easy mistake, but careless,
given they were still on honeymoon.
Swept off her feet in the rush,
she turned to see him bent double,
hands on his godly hips – laughing.
And his cold-echo laugh dragged her back,
bounced off the platform like tears,
until she saw the funny side.
After that she kept in step with him,
walked in his shadow
as the tube snaked off into blackness.
For he was a charmer,
and hers was a slow, slow dying.